Mental Health & Wellbeing

Is it urgent?… the follow up…and, take part in my poll

It was so interesting to read the responses to my last blog “Is it urgent?…”
There were lots of people who really,genuinely struggle to access their doctor  at all.

“At my doctors you can’t phone up one day for an appointment the next. You might be able to book an appointment for about 8 or 9 working days time….

… Our doctors are all really nice – if you can get to see them! If I have any days booked off work, I actually book an appointment just in case I have anything needs ‘seeing to’!”

My intention was never to belittle or question the commitment and support of our local team.  We are very lucky in Wales and to have a GP surgery in Llanwrtyd.  The receptionists are so helpful and friendly if you pop in or phone (within the limits set them) and when you do see a doctor here you are given as much time and support as you need.  My ONLY issue was that damned question

“Is it urgent?….” will illicit different responses  from different people independent of the abstract urgency .

I still don’t know how to answer the question effectively.  what does constitute urgency for a doctors appointment?  Any true URGENT medical issue results in calling 999 or attending A&E.  By their very nature GP appointments are for non-urgent issues.

Here are various scenarios, you may have more:

1. not wanting to be a nuisance-particularly appropriate amongst the elder generation – they might not want to make a fuss or cause any trouble – being asked “is it urgent?” may well leave them in a vulnerable situation if they elect to say ‘no’.

2. to any hypochondriac, of course its urgent!

3.  its an ongoing niggle that’s been ignored for too long, not got better, maybe got slightly worse, its taken weeks to admit you need a doctor, should it be appropriate to wait another week for an appointment or is the fact that you’ve braved making the call enough to consider it ‘urgent’

4. you just feel shit – maybe its a cough, maybe , like on the TV ads ,it could be cancer….

5. you are scared of the doctor (like some people are with dentists) – when you do phone its a now or never – being asked the question may scare you off

6. if you suffer from stress or anxiety (or have had a Catholic upbringing!)  you may be riddled with guilt.  Being asked “are you sure its urgent this is the last urgent appointment we have for today” – might create additional stress.

I’ll just say number 6 applied to me. I felt embarrassed and guilty taking the appointment, got worked up into a state.  John had to attend with me as I was convinced the doctor would say I was wasting time and question my decision to deprive someone more needy of the urgent appointment.  I KNOW this is ridiculous but hey ho , this is one of my many neurosis’s!!!  We all have them so don’t give me that look  😉 .

Anyway,  it  all worked out OK, of course.  I guess we have to remember and be thankful for our NHS system.  OK its far from perfect but not having it would be hideous. I know of people who have died alone in their own home in America because they couldn’t afford to call for an ambulance.  That’s just tragic.

Anyway.  Here’s one very funny rant came from a friend of mine and it  had me in stitches (please take it tongue in cheek).

“Is it urgent?”
– “Of course it’s f***ing urgent or I wouldn’t be calling. I have a perceived medical problem and I want it fixing NOW and it seems totally appropriate that a qualified medical practitioner should deliberate on my issue.”

This makes the whole question a redundant one in the first place – the perception of urgency is also a question of ownership. It’s probably not urgent for the GP to see you… whether or not he/she does is unlikely to have any bearing on them at all and if they don’t see you they will only be seeing someone else. Undoubtedly it’s urgent for you because you have chosen THAT point in time, for whatever reason, to contact them directly to address your scabby head. If it wasn’t urgent FOR YOU then you could get an appointment by sending them a letter, or maybe even a carrier pigeon, asking for one at some indeterminate point in the future.

Instead of the ‘is it urgent’ question, other questions they might ask are obviated in their redundancy since you are not a ‘qualified medical practitioner’ – questions such as ” Is it serious?” or “Is it life-threatening?” are really only meaningful if they don’t get a response, by which time it’s probably too late. And generally if it was serious or life-threatening you wouldn’t be pissing about phoning a GP anyway would you? You’d either be dead or phoning 999.”

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(1) Comment

  1. Cait O’Connorsaid via FB:- I did try to post a comment on your blog but it wouldn’t post so I will put it here. There is another scenario you can add – make it number 7 – someone could have something wrong which they themselves might not consider ‘urgent enough’ to ‘push’ to be seen but is in fact a dangerous condition which needs very urgent attention and should not be ‘postponed’. Our GP’s receptionists never ask such a question as yours do and appointments are made on a first come first slotted in basis and if our own GP is booked up then we can go to another one a bit sooner. There is also a triage system whereby you can turn up any morning and wait to be seen by a nurse who will deal with the problem if she can or she will call in a GP. I can’t praise our surgery highly enough.(Llandod). I do understand you asking the question you did!

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